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The Power of Touch During COVID-19

The Power of Touch During COVID-19
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Published on June 9, 2020

“I need my morning hug,” my 7-year-old daughter said the other day. It got me thinking about the power of touch and how so many people are missing that simple act of kindness right now because of the coronavirus pandemic and our physical separation from each other. Babies are put onto skin-to-skin contact with moms and dads right after birth, and it’s one of the most important bonding rituals we need throughout our lifetimes.

When I interviewed two-time cancer survivor Susan Strong, she mentioned missing out on massages as part of her regular self-care routine. Massage and physical therapy can be beneficial for patients with cancer during and after treatment. Some may consider it a treat or luxury, but touch can be a very important part of healing, both physically and emotionally.

For patients with breast cancer, physical therapy can be pivotal in alleviating the pain of lymphedema, which is caused by the swelling of the arm after lymph nodes are removed during surgery. Cathy Skinner, CEO and Founder of THRIVORS, shares an exercise and wellness regimen tailored to the specific needs of those living with lymphedema.

An Act of Kindness: Physical Therapy

Kelsea Devries, a physical therapist in southern Maryland, finds joy in helping people heal after surgery or illness, and her rewards are many.

“People are very appreciative,” Kelsea said. “Not being able to walk or being in a lot of pain after surgery is emotional for a lot of people, and often met with significant frustration and depression. When they are finally able to return to normal activities, they are happy. We get lots of hugs, cards and often food as a ‘Thank You!’” she added.

Exercise and physical therapy can help patients in numerous ways:

  • Reduce treatment-related fatigue and nausea
  • Improve mood
  • Decrease sleep disturbances
  • Improve overall physical and emotional well-being

One of Kelsea’s areas of expertise is soft-tissue manipulation. 

“I believe it is highly effective to do some form of hands-on treatment, whether it is a light soft-tissue manipulation, or gentle passive stretching,” she said.

“It helps people relax and builds trust between patient and provider, and even light-pressure massage can help improve mood. People come into the clinic because they don't feel well, and that is often exacerbated by stress or depression, and just five minutes of hands-on can really help decrease some of that,” she added.

Kelsea says that consistent with a lot of physical challenges, the mental part is often the biggest barrier.

“Frustration with slow progress, depression with inability to do what you once were able to do are common mental struggles. Once you get past the mental barrier, the physical barriers—pain, lack of range of motion, lack of strength—are much easier to overcome,” she said.

 This pandemic seems endless, and Kelsea is currently furloughed until conditions improve, but she’s hopeful that she’ll get back to doing what she does best, helping people feel better.

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~Lauren Evoy Davis

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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